It’s a rare occasion when a theatre audience squeal with fright as soon as a voice asks them to turn off their mobiles before a show begins. But when you’re waiting in anticipation to watch a play that describes itself as ‘London’s scariest phenomenon’ and warns its audience in advance that they will have to keep reminding themselves that it’s only a show, it’s inevitable that you’ll be a tad bit jumpy. And rightly so.
The secrets of Ghost Stories have been successfully shielded from the public. In fact, they are even hidden from the audience right up until the performance begins, with the show’s program revealing zilch about the storyline. After the final curtain falls on the stage, the audience is asked to keep the secrets of Ghost Stories. Clearly, the appeal of the show is the mystery that surrounds it.
Ghost Stories is currently running at The Duke of York’s Theatre in London (appropriately enough, the theatre is supposed to be haunted), and was devised by Jeremy Dyson, who co-created The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Andy Nyman, who has worked with Derren Brown. Together they have created a piece of theatre that mixes suspense, tricks of the eye, fact and fiction, audience interaction and heart-racing fear, all packed together nicely into 80 minutes. 80 minutes that you will literally spend on the edge of your seat terrified that some hideous creature is going to land on your lap.
Perhaps I should divulge some of the plot detail, but I knew nothing about the storyline of Ghost Stories before I went to see it and that was what made it so engaging. Let’s just say that it involves a skeptical University Professor and a series of haunting stories.
Despite what the show promises, it won’t leave you disturbed for days. Instead it is rife with terrifying tension that may not stay with you long after you leave the theatre, but it sure as hell will get you in the moment. The acting is compelling and humor is key throughout, with the audience laughing just as often as they were yelping.
What struck me most about Ghost Stories was how brilliantly clever it was. Obviously the mystery and media attention has helped considerably in getting the audience’s fear rising before they are even led to their seats, but once the show starts the techniques used to raise terror levels are fascinating. The audience becomes involved with the show immediately and this continues throughout, making us forget that we are, in fact, an audience in a theatre. Lighting and sound are used to their full effect, but it is the use of mind-numbing suspense that makes the show. It will drive you absolutely bonkers, but in the best possible way. Dare to blink and you might miss the moments of terror.
Ghost Stories is running at The Duke of York’s Theatre until June 2011. Click here for ticket info.